Fire service's management style rapped

By Juliette MaxamFIRE bosses have been criticised for their “confrontational style of management” in a Government report published today.Inspectors have drawn up comprehensive performance assessments for fire authorities across the country after examining how well they were run at a corporate level.

By Juliette Maxam

FIRE bosses have been criticised for their “confrontational style of management” in a Government report published today.

Inspectors have drawn up comprehensive performance assessments for fire authorities across the country after examining how well they were run at a corporate level.

Essex Fire Authority has been given an overall grade of “fair” in the report, which has been carried out by the Audit Commission.


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But it criticised the authority for the “confrontational style of management displayed by some senior officers that has prevented some important groups of staff from being engaged in the development of the service”.

It also censured the authority for not focusing on improving community fire safety in its strategic aims.

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Essex fire bosses were further accused of a lack of robust targets and systems to demonstrate performance achievements and target community safety initiatives.

On a positive note, the authority was praised for responding well to modernisation and moving in the right direction.

The report recognised some community initiatives were going well, such as environmental action days and the authority's work to keep the number of accidental domestic fires down.

Phil Jones, head of local government in the Audit Commission's central region, said: “Essex Fire Authority is building upon good performance. It is having a positive impact on the communities it serves, with a clear approach to the modernisation agenda.

“But the confrontational style of management of the services, together with the inwardly focused strategic aims, need to be addressed to ensure the services delivered have maximum impact.”

Essex Fire Authority must now draw up an action plan to make improvements.

A statement from Essex Fire and Rescue Service said: “Overall, the report of the review paints a positive picture of the way in which the fire service in Essex is run and, in particular, concludes that the communities of Essex are receiving good value for money from their fire service.

“There are a number of areas, however, in which the report identifies the need for the authority to improve, and the newly-appointed Chief Fire Officer, David Johnson, is working with elected members and his management team to address these.”

Essex Fire Brigades Union declined to comment, but the national Fire Brigades Union criticised the Audit Commission for not tackling the issues the public were concerned about - such as how quickly firefighters responded to calls.

Matt Wrack, general secretary, said: “The Audit Commission appear to have missed the real point of what the fire service is here to do. It's a bit like judging a football team on the quality of the pies sold at half-time.”

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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